When the Gossip's third album Standing in the Way of Control broke huge in Britain, the public appeared to be staring at two Beth Dittos: the outspoken media minx who bounced into the U.K. gossip sheets and front row seats at Fashion Week, and the fierce frontwoman attempting to jostle society's expectations with a beat you can dance to.
The band's new Rick Rubin-produced album Music for Men (out digitally June 23rd; in stores October 6th) makes a fabulous case for the latter taking over: it's an amazing, multifaceted, socially conscious record that seems destined to take the Gossip to even greater heights. "It has a lot of meanings," Ditto tells RS of the record's title, "but I also thought it was just a cool sound, that it sounded really good — it's that simple."
Ditto says she and guitarist Nathan Howdeshell (a.k.a. Brace Paine) write songs kind of magically — "Nathan will have a guitar part he made on his laptop and I'll go into the hotel room and just sing over it. The lyrics and the melody come together at the exact same time always" — and Rubin seems to have been the ideal shepherd for the band's first major label record. "He is really nurturing," she says. "He always wants to make sure you have what you need, and I'm not talking about 'Do you need whiskey, 'cause we'll get you drunk.' I'm talking, what do you need in your soul to make you feel as good as you can or as you can sound? Because the better you feel, the better the record's going to come out. It was like lesbian processing 101."
What Ditto says she needed and got in droves was the confidence to expand even her own expectations of what the Gossip could be. "His whole vision was seeing the potential to be a real band as opposed not taking ourselves as seriously as we could," she says. "Like, you can write a real record and it doesn't have to be silly. You can actually believe in yourself enough to write more than one verse to a song and not have to repeat it."
Ditto says on the first day in the studio she nervously asked Rubin to lay down the process and he told her, "We don't know what it is yet, but we'll know when it's done." Ditto says, "It was a perfect answer."
And just because Ditto learned the Art of Zen Album Producing with Rubin doesn't mean she's lost her love for answering the tough questions. Like how she might assist her fellow lady-loving gossip page mainstay Lindsay Lohan? "I don't know if she'd be my friend. I don't know if she wants to be seen with a lesbian for real," Ditto says. "I would be her friend in a heartbeat. I don't know if she's comfortable. But poor thing. She's younger than me! And I can't imagine all that coming to you at that time. This is the key to it Lindsay Lohan: a sense of humor."
And as for getting naked onstage, Ditto confirms her frequent strip-downs are traditionally one-part politics, one-part necessity. "It is part radical statement, but man, it was so hot," she says. "Still to this day that is the driving force. I cannot breath. I don't weigh 130 pounds — I can't play in full sequined gowns. I am working on outfits right now that I don't have to take off, that are perfect."